5 teams from the Pac-12 made the field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA and Arizona both received 6 seeds with the selection committee admitting that the injury to Jordan Adams prevented the Bruins from a 5 seed. Colorado was given a 10 seed and Cal was the last team in to receive a “First Round” bye as a 12 seed. The most shocking of all was the committee giving the Pac-12 Tournament champs OREGON a 12 seed. The Ducks were under seeded and they played like it. Some experts were predicting the Pac-12 to go 0-5 in the tournament but on Thursday the first full day of the tournament, the Pac-12 went undefeated. Arizona State, Washington and Stanford accepted invitations to the NIT giving the Pac-12 8 teams in postseason tournaments.
Oregon: The Ducks advanced to the Sweet 16 with “upset” wins over Oklahoma State and St. Louis. Oregon was in control in both of their games in San Jose. St. Louis was predicted by some to give Louisville a run for their money but the Ducks prevented them from reaching the Sweet 16. Oregon held on with Louisville but the Cardinals were too strong and advanced to the Elite 8 with a 77-69 victory.
Dana Altman was awarded Coach of the year in the conference and will look to build upon this year’s success. The Ducks will miss Seniors E.J. Singler (All Pac-12 1st Team) & Arsalan Kazemi (All Pac-12 Honorable Mention) but their starting backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson are only freshmen. Look for the Ducks to challenge for the Pac-12 title next season with a top 40 recruiting class including 3 Top 100 ranked players.
Arizona: When Harvard pulled off the upset over New Mexico, the Wildcats bracket opened up and a Final Four run seemed plausible. The Wildcats got their first win of the season over the Bruins but it was Belmont, not UCLA. Then in the 3rd round the Wildcats made sure Harvard knew the clock had struck midnight with a 74-51 victory advancing to the Sweet 16. Arizona headed to the West Regional at Staples Center as the #6 seed facing the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The winner of the game would be the favorite to reach the final 4 since the top half of the bracket featured a #9 seed against a #13 seed. Arizona had control of the game early on but Ohio State came back and took the lead and almost let it go until LaQuinton Ross drilled the game winning three with 2 seconds left. The Buckeyes were upset though by the Shockers in the Elite 8.
Seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons both were selected to the Pac-12 First Team. Sean Miller brings in the 25th ranked recruiting class but have their eyes on #4 ranked player Aaron Gordon who is still undecided (Oregon is also on his short-list). The Wildcats will miss their Seniors more than any other team in the conference but Sean Miller has this team in position to compete for the Pac-12 every year so expect nothing different in 2014.
UCLA: The Bruins had a terrible past week. UCLA was blown out to #11 seed Minnesota and their effort deserved to be questioned. The game ended 83-63 with a missed layup by Shabazz Muhammad as a symbol of what could have been. Ben Howland was on the hot seat all year and was finally fired after 10 seasons with UCLA. Howland had much of his success in his first 6 years including 3 straight final four trips. UCLA had 1 victory combined in the past 4 years including this year with the #1 recruiting class. The Bruins had their eyes set on VCU’s Shaka Smart or Butler’s Brad Stevens to be the next coach but both candidates turned down the job to stay at their schools. In a surprising move, UCLA named former Steve Alford their new coach. Alford led New Mexico to the Mountain West Championship and a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Also Alford had been given a 10 year extension just last week but did not sign the official document.
Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the year, Shabazz Muhammad seems to be a lock to enter the NBA Draft and Larry Drew II (Pac-12 First Team) is a senior but the rest of the roster for next year could be in question. There has been plenty of talk and rumors that suggest Tony Parker will transfer from UCLA. Also Kyle Anderson should come back for another year but you never know because his draft stock has gone up the past few weeks. A core of Parker, Anderson, Jordan Adams, the Wear twins and a Top 20 recruiting class could make UCLA a top-10 team next year under Steve Alford.
CALIFORNIA: The Golden Bears joined Oregon as #12 seeds to pull off the upset. Cal defeated UNLV in a rematch of an earlier game played in the year where Cal also won. Cal was practically playing home games in San Jose. After defeating UNLV, the Golden Bears had to face Syracuse the eventual champ of the East region. The 2-3 of the Orange stifled Allen Crabbe and company. Syracuse had a 12 minute drought without a field goal in the 2nd half and still managed to win the game and Cal’s season.
Allen Crabbe was named the Pac-12 player of the year and he has a decision to make in the next few weeks whether to declare for the draft or return for his senior year. Crabbe is potentially a first round pick but the way the system is set up now, it is hard for underclassmen to “test the waters” like they used to. If Crabbe returns to Cal next year they will be able to compete with Oregon, UCLA & Arizona for the Pac-12 but without him they will probably be in the next tier. They have a top 25 recruiting class including #2 SG Jabari Bird.
Colorado: The Buffaloes were a #10 seed in the NCAA tournament even though they finished behind Oregon and Cal in the Pac-12. Colorado had a tough matchup with #7 Illinois in Austin in the 2nd round game. Colorado got behind early and spent the rest of the game playing catchup and only shot 33% from the field, leading to their demise.
Andre Roberson was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and also was on the First Team Pac-12 joined by teammate Spencer Dinwiddie. Colorado has a top 30 recruiting class coming to Boulder next year but expect them in the next tier behind the Big 3 just like this season.
Stanford: The Cardinal didn’t make the NCAA Tournament but were a #4 seed in the NIT. They won a thrilling game against Stephen F. Austin in the 1st round and then lost to Alabama in the 2nd round.
Junior Dwight Powell was named to the Pac-12 First Team and also was named Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year. Coach Johnny Dawkins will be back next season but so will the pressure. Stanford doesn’t have a great recruiting class and making the NCAA tournament next year could be a stretch. Look for Stanford to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 again.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils also missed out on the big dance but were awarded a #3 seed in the NIT. Arizona State defeated Detroit in their opening game but then lost a close one to Baylor 89-86. Jahii Carson was named Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year and made the All Pac-12 first team. There is a chance Carson bolts for the NBA but odds say he returns for his sophomore season. Carson was tremendous as a freshman and was scorching hot in March averaging 22.5 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists a game while 55% from the field, 50% from 3 and 83% from the line. Herb Sendek doesn’t have a lot of talent coming into Tempe next year but has a young roster. Carson’s decision is the key to the success of the Sun Devils.
Washington: Thanks to a hibernation in the middle of the month, the Huskies found themselves in the NIT as #6 seed. The Huskies lost their opening round game to BYU to end a disappointing season for Lorenzo Romar’s squad. Lorenzo Romar was rumored to be on UCLA’s list of potential coaches but stated that he wasn’t interested or contacted. Washington didn’t have anyone on the All Pac-12 First team but he adds a top 30 recruiting class next year. Look for the Huskies to be back in the NCAA tournament next year and finish 4th or 5th next year in a resurgent Pac-12.
USC: I was expecting the Trojans to make a run in the Pac-12 tournament but that didn’t happen with a loss to Utah. The Trojans are looking for a new coach and are rumored to be after the coach of the darlings of this year’s tournament. Andy Enfield, the coach of Florida Gulf Coast would be a perfect fit. His team plays an exciting style and he has the look and wife for a coach in Los Angeles. The Trojans are also considering former coach Tim Floyd. Even as a Bruin, I don’t want the latter and think Enfield and “Dunk City” would fit right in Los Angeles.
Utah: The Utes made a nice run in Las Vegas making it to the Semi-Finals. Utah finished the season winning four of five games and looking to build on it for next year. Utah has 5 commits for next season including 2 top 100 ranked recruits. Look for Utah to get out of the bottom of the Pac-12 and make the move into the middle tier of teams.
Washington State: Brock Motum was the lone bright spot for the Cougars this year and was rewarded with being named to the 2nd team All Pac-12. Motum is a senior and the Cougars don’t have a lot to build on but have a decent recruiting class coming next year. Expect the Cougars to remain in the bottom group of Pac-12 teams next year.
Oregon State: The Beavers had a terrible year and things don’t look to be getting better any sooner. The Beavers have the worst recruiting class in the conference and with the Pac-12 getting stronger will probably be a doormat for the other teams.